Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Case File #23: "Mostly Waving"

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
"Mostly Waving"
Knives Don't Have Your Back

The need to know: One of the most fun parts about being a Broken Social Scene fan is following its members, and Emily Haines gives us much to track down. Though the bulk of her time is spent fronting synth-rockers Metric, in 2006 she released Knives Don't Have Your Back, under Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. A collection of songs penned while on duty with Metric and BSS, it's not all that surprising to find her trading in her synth for the good ole ivories, and toting songs with heavier emotional weight and less danceability. 

Why it's worthy: An oddly ominous and sexy song, "Mostly Waving" shows us a different Emily Haines than the one we're used to seeing. But what makes this song so great is Haines' impeccable vocal delivery, which, lets face it, is nearly always on target anyway. With her other outlets she's never afraid to be sweet ("Swimmers") or shout when necessary ("Monster Hospital"), but here she's more sultry and vulnerable, and allows her voice an extra layer of mellifluousness that melts over every second of "Mostly Waving". You can't help but get stuck in it.

Quotable lyric: "Get the line down/ Don't elaborate like that/ You frighten off the frat boys/ Use your baby talk."

Where you've heard it: A remix of "Mostly Waving" appeared on the companion EP, What Is Free To A Good Home?, a collection of B-sides from the Knives sessions. 

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Case File #22: "New Noise"

"New Noise"
The Shape Of Punk To Come

The need to know: Swedish hardcore punks Refused called it quits in 1998, but not before unleashing the career-defining The Shape Of Punk To Come. This swan song solidified Refused's place in the hardcore cannon, and showed those of us on the fringe of the genre that it can be more than just angry screams over angry guitars. Whispers of a Refused reunion surfaced in March of this year, but it was not to be. Le sigh. 

Why it's worthy: In 1998, a friend of mine sent me this song and said only this: "It will rock your socks off." The boy wasn't lyin'. A concise capsule of Refused's views of the punk scene--a stand still relevant today--"New Noise" calls out punk noisemakers content to confine punk's dissentive nature to the same-old simplistic pop leanings. What makes "New Noise" (and, admittedly, the entire album) so great is the band's fearlessness to not just be furious, but also know when to step off the throttle and incorporate elements as wide ranging as jazz and ambient sounds without worrying about coloring within the lines. The fact that they can do all of that and STILL give us hooks is why we remember this song, and the band, over a decade after they disbanded.

Quotable lyric: "And how can we expect anyone to listen/ If we are using the same old voice?"

Where you've heard it: "New Noise" was featured in the soundtracks for the 2004 film Friday Night Lights and the 2006 ridiculousness-fest Crank.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Case File #21: "Thieves"

She & Him
Volume Two

The need to know: She is the doe-eyed, raven haired actress Zooey Deschanel. Him is countrified folkie M. Ward. Initially paired up for the 2007 flick The Go-Getter, where Him dominated the soundtrack and She starred, their one-off duet has evolved into a bona fide music group. Sure, Deschanel's an actress, and we know how it usually goes when actresses dabble in music, but She & Him defy that particular musical law. Their much-adored first album, Volume One, a collection of Deschanel-penned originals and choice nostalgia covers, emerged in 2008, and the just-released Volume Two continues to define the duos 60s-inspired pop sound. 

Why it's worthy: Who doesn't want to hear Deschanel pine away about wayward loves? Much like the twee characters she most often portrays, she knows what role she's best at and plays it to an oh-so-sweet perfection. "Thieves," another lovelorn tale, sets the tone as the lead track for Volume Two. Here, Deschanel laments with a brave face over yet another romantic ending, but by the end her
assertion that she'll still be crying seems like a triumphant victory over the matters of the heart.

Quotable lyric: "It's not all that bad/ I'll see you sometime/ Sometimes lonely isn't sad"

Where you've heard it: Deschanel tends to mix singing and acting together pretty often. In addition to The Go-Getter, her vocals have graced the soundtracks to (500) Days of Summer, Yes Man, and Elf.

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